Egypt presidential hopeful eyes rapprochement with Turkey

Monday, February 10, 2014

Professor Hamed Taher has a special view of Egypt's current tensions between Egypt and Turkey.

Professor Hamed Taher has a special view of Egypt's current tensions between Egypt and Turkey.

CAIRO - A would-be Egyptian presidential candidate wants to forge an economic and political alliance with Turkey, open a new chapter for "wise" Islamists in the country's political life, and empower Egyptian youth by giving them important positions in government.

Hamed Taher, a professor of Islamic philosophy and the former deputy president of Cairo University, may be a stranger to the workings of government, but he nevertheless says he has a plan to improve the country by tapping into its rich natural resources.

"Egypt isn't moving forward," Taher, 70, told Anadolu Agency in an interview. "Its current conditions make no one happy."

Taher has travelled around the world and has seen how governments use their national resources to make progress. He says it pains him to see a country like Egypt, which can boast so much natural and human wealth, failing to take any steps forward.

He says he knows he might run into unequal competition with Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi if the latter decides to run for president, adds that this doesn't mean he shouldn't rise to the challenge.

In a reference to elected president Mohamed Morsi's ouster by the army last summer, Taher said al-Sisi had done something of a "national" nature – but added that this did not mean that he should back down from competing against the army chief at the ballot box.

"The whole thing will depend on the program each candidate presents to the public," Taher said. "Then the people can decide."

But even if he runs up against a rivalry with al-Sisi, who has not yet revealed whether he will enter the presidential race, Taher stresses the army's importance.

He describes the military establishment as an important part of Egyptian society, saying this is why it should get the budget it wants.

In this, Taher appears to to be in line with Egypt's new constitution, approved by a vast majority of voters on January 14 and 15, which prohibits public debate about the military's budget.

'Wise Islamists'

Because Taher isn't a member of any political party or force, he says he's more ready to open a new chapter with what he calls "wise Islamists" when he is at Egypt's saddle.

He says he does not agree with the calls made by some people that Islamist movements get out of Egypt.

"The Egyptian society is pious even before religious appeared," Taher said. "This is why it is important to make reconciliation."

Reconciliation, however, is the word that angers the backers of the Egyptian army the most. Some advocates of the army and opponents of Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement from which Morsi hails, say there should not be any reconciliation with these movements, particularly after some crimes were committed against state institutions, policemen, and army personnel after Morsi's July 3 ouster.

These people's antagonism to the Muslim Brotherhood climaxed at the anger poured at one of the backers of the army, namely political science professor Hassan Nafaa, when he outlined the need for dialogue and reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood a few days ago.

Like-minded army backers accused Nafaa of being a sleeper Muslim Brotherhood cell, while other people accused him of working for the best interests of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.

But Taher finds no reason for this campaign against the movement and fellow Islamists. He says there can be dialogue with what he calls "wise" Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

"A new page must be opened so that these people can become part of Egypt's political life," Taher said. "As for the people who commit crimes, let the courts decide on these crimes," he added.

Youth first

While Taher is 70, he says he feels the pulse of the nation's youth who make up a majority of the population in this country. He adds that he wants to offer his life experiences to Egypt's youths who must be empowered by getting their rightful positions in the government.

"Youths will get their position in all fields and ministries," Taher said. "Previous governments did nothing to keep youths away from extremism," he added.

Egypt's youths were at the forefront of the revolution that ended Mubarak's three decades of rule in early 2011. They were also at the frontline of the wave of anger that led to the unseating by the army of elected president Mohamed Morsi in June 2013.

Despite this, youths remarkably absented themselves from the referendum on the amended version of the 2012 constitution on January 14 and 15, 2014.

Some people, including renowned cinema director Khalid Youssef who is credited for making the famous videos of millions of demonstrators against Morsi's government on Egypt's squares by boarding a military helicopter, warned against this by saying the government must listen to these youths to see why they are staying away from the post-Morsi army-imposed roadmap.

Taher says state institutions have not done enough to keep youths away from extremism. He says if he becomes president, he will do his best to work for youth as part of the larger Egyptian population.

"I will not allow anybody to harm youths," Taher said.

Strategic alliances

Taher has a special view of Egypt's current tensions between Egypt and Turkey. He describes this tension as one between the current authorities in Egypt and the government in in Turkey.

He underlines the importance of the presence of an alliance between Egypt and Turkey both at the economic and political fronts.

"There are three major countries in this region, namely Egypt, Turkey and Iran," Taher said. "I know that there are problems between the regimes in Egypt and Turkey now, but these problems will come to an end," he added.

He said smart countries are those who give priority to their economic interests and this is why he thinks an economic alliance among Egypt, Turkey and Iran will be beneficial to the three countries as well as to other countries in the region.

"After this, there can be a political alliance among these countries for the best interests of the whole region," Taher said.

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